School cafeterias adjusting to kids with food allergies

By: Olga Michail Email
By: Olga Michail Email

ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU) -- As the number of students dealing with "dangerous food allergies" increases, many schools say they have to adjust to the new reality. And schools say it is not an easy task.

Many nutritionists say allergies in kids today are easily detected and that leads to more kids in schools who are allergic to certain foods and need special accommodations. But they say it's not necessarily a bad thing; it helps knowing exactly what every kid in their school needs.

More allergies in kids and more severe ones is what seems to be the case at Altoona and Eau Claire School Districts.

“It certainly is a little more challenging for us, but all our students have special individual needs, and they all have likes and dislikes and we're certainly try to meet the needs of all of our students,” said director of food and nutrition with the Eau Claire School District Sue Brown.

All districts require a note from the physician that is put on file and helps staff recognize kids that have special food needs.

“They have milk allergies, wheat allergies, corn syrup allergies, peanut allergies, gluten allergies,” explained Food Service Director with Altoona School District Peggy Ehrhard.

“Some students are allergic to fish, some students are allergic to eggs,” added Brown.

But no matter what the allergies are districts say they try hard to make arrangements for everyone.

“We're buying some special things for students that are gluten free,” said Brown.

“We do have allergy-free tables at both our elementary, intermediate, and middle schools,” said Ehrhard.

“If they need to sit at a table so they don't come in contact with the allergens but they're still part of the cafeteria, and still interacting with other students,” said Brown.

And there are preventative measures as well.

“As a student put in their pin number, on the screen of the computer if a kid has an allergy, their allergy pops up; so the screen will say peanut allergy or glutton intolerance,” explained Brown.

The Altoona School District says it only has two students right now that are receiving special accommodations. Eau Claire has several more.

“It certainly has an impact on our budget, but we're here for all students and we do need to meet their needs,” added Brown.

Schools says the priority is to insure that no matter what allergies kids have they are still getting the nutrition they need to do well in school.

Schools also say they meet the needs of students who are lactose intolerant and diabetic as well.

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